This is one ‘urban legend’ that parents ought to be scared of. All across the world, teenage pregnancies have declined, and yet, the number of underage girls getting pregnant and having pregnancy scares in the city has risen, according to doctors and ultrasound technicians. This World Population Day’s theme of reducing adolescent pregnancy would appear pertinent considering the fact that a majority of these girls are usually students.
“Over the last two years, we have had very young girls come in for ultrasound scans to confirm if they are pregnant. They usually lie about their age (usually say 21-22) and dress like they are much older, but we can figure out their age quite easily,” says Sukumar S K, the proprietor of a scan centre in Kotturpuram. He adds that they are usually accompanied by a young girl or boy of the same age and sometimes even have badly written prescriptions on doctors’ notepads. He estimates that the profile is usually uniform: fairly well-off or at least upper middle-class, school or early college students. “Once two girls who looked like they were 15 came in with an elder girl and said that they wanted an ultrasound because she had stomach pain. I asked to speak with either a doctor or her parents and they immediately left,” he recounts.
Not all scan centres are as testy about ‘business’ though. Ananthan, who works at the Royapettah branch of a popular chain of scan centres, lets on that it isn’t their business to inform their parents, if there is a suspicion that they are underage. “As long as they have a prescription and can pay, we will do the scan. After all, only sex determination of the foetus is illegal, not this.”
Even gynaecologists agree that they are seeing a “constant” number of teens coming in with unwanted pregnancies, but very few abortions. “I have seen that quite a few girls are brought in with their parents and they ask to check to see if she is pregnant. Most often it’s because they’ve missed a period or gotten a positive result on a home test kit. Sometimes they aren’t pregnant, but they always admit it’s because of unprotected sex with a boyfriend or lover,” states a gynaecologist with a thriving practice in Velachery. Another OB-GYN Dr Priya, says that most often if the girls are found to be pregnant and close to the borderline for abortion, the parents choose to take them to secluded clinics in other States to do abortion.
“One of the reasons for this is because contraceptive pills (post-unprotected sex) are not available here, so youngsters find it difficult to stay safe,” she says.
Admirably, the number of lower-middle class and Below Poverty line (BPL) under-19 women who end up pregnant has dropped, says Dr Meenalochani, gynaecologist and director of the Institute of Child Health and Government Children’s Hospital. “We used to see one case a day, a decade or more ago, but now this has dropped. Girls who are labourers, maids, workers and others have become a lot more careful,” she concludes.